Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News



Capturing the Rain Animal

13 Mar 2015
Share on Facebook

Capturing the Rain Animal: an important mythological and symbolic aspect of the rock art of the San in the Drakensberg Mountains in southern Africa.

Rain animal in San rock art of southern Africa

Bamboo Hollow San rock art site, Drakensberg.

With more than 500,000 rock art sites, Africa is the world's greatest repository of ancient rock art. Of Africa's many rock art traditions, the San - or Bushman - rock art of the Drakensberg Mountains in southern Africa is one of the finest. Some of its images have details only the width of a hair and its delicate shaded colours fade seamlessly from white through pink to dark red. 

For decades researchers believed that San rock paintings were simply a record of daily life or a primitive form of hunting magic. But by linking specific San beliefs to recurrent features in the art, researchers such as Patricia Vinnicombe and David Lewis-Williams managed to crack the fundamental codes underlying San rock art, revealing a complex and sophisticated form of symbolic art.

One aspect of this is capturing the rain animal. 

Rain-making was one of the San shamans' most important tasks. The southern San thought of the rain as an animal. A male rain-animal, or rain-bull, was associated with the frightening thunderstorm that bellowed, stirred up the dust, and sometimes killed people with its lightning. The female rain animal was associated with soft, soaking rains. For the San, rain was life. When it fell, tubers that had lain hidden beneath the parched land sprang up, and the veld was renewed. Then antelope were attracted to the new grass and bushes.

Drakensberg Mountains in southern Africa

Columns of falling rain were called the rain's legs, while wisps of cloud were known as the rain's hair; mist was said to be rain's breath.

When the San did a rain dance they would go into a trance to capture one of these animals. In their trance they would kill it, and its blood and milk became the rain.

Members of the Foundation visited this painting at Bamboo Hollow with Dr. Ben Smith.

Visit the Rock Art Archive of South Africa:

Read more about the themes of San rock art in J.D. Lewis-Williams publication 'San Rock Art'



** Like Page below to receive our articles on Facebook **
03 Nov 2015
15 Apr 2015
27 Mar 2015
Bradshaw FoundationAboutiShopBook ReviewSite MapMailing ListDonateFacebookTwitterContact
If you have enjoyed visiting this section of the website please consider adding a link
Bradshaw Foundation © MMXI
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Western Canadian Rock Art Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Museum Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation